Foxx on highway stopgap: ‘We'll be right here again’

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx predicted there would be a repeat of this summer’s infrastructure funding debate in Congress next year despite the likelihood of an approximately $11 billion bill, passed Tuesday by the House, becoming law before the end of this month. 

Foxx said during an interview with MSNBC’s Ed Schultz on Tuesday evening that the House-passed legislation failed to address the long-term issues that have been plaguing federal transportation funding for years. 

“What’s going on in Capitol Hill right now is folks have been scouring around trying to get a few more months to consider this issue again, but we'll be right back here in next spring if it passes,” Foxx said.  

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The measure that was approved on 367-55 vote by the House this week would provide $10.9 billion to extend federal transportation until May 2015.

Democrats had hoped for a multi-year bill that could have included an increase in the 18.4 cents per gallon gas tax, which is the traditional transportation funding source. 

Republicans in the House resisted the push to increase the gas tax, however, turning to other areas of the federal budget like pension changes and custom fees for transportation funding. 

The House package would only be enough to carry transportation funding until next spring because the Department of Transportation has said that there is a shortfall in the neighborhood of $16 billion in its Highway Trust Fund. 

Foxx blamed Republican resistance to consider a long-term fix on pressure from outside conservative groups in his post-vote interview. 

“I think there's actually bipartisan interest in moving forward on something,” he said. “But some folks have boxed them in, boxed themselves in by taking this 'no tax' pledges, this 'no increase in revenue' pledges ... when you have something like this that actually requires money to work.” 

Foxx said he was glad lawmakers were moving to prevent a bankruptcy in transportation funding that he had warned for months would occur next month. 

He said eventually Congress was going to have to address the root of the infrastructure problem and come up with a transportation funding source, however. 

“There is no free lunch here,” Foxx said. “Congress over the last five years has passed 27 short-term measures. They have looked under just about every mattress, turned over just about every rock to try to get our Highway Trust Funds stabilize, but we’re now at the point where we actually have to make a decision about the future and we're pushing Grow America because America needs an inflection point." 

Foxx concluded that “we need to invest in infrastructure and we need to be doing more of it than we've been doing.”